Windows 10ish, coming July 29ish

Subject: General Tech | July 3, 2015 - 01:23 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

No rumours this Friday but more confusion out of Redmond as Microsoft announces that the July 29th launch date for Windows 10 may or may not apply to you.  Brave members of the Windows Insider program will be able to install the new OS on that date but others may see their date moved into August as the OS will be rolled out in waves.  Even more interesting is that many may see a message recommending you reach out to an application provider or device manufacturer before upgrading if the tool identifies something on your machine that may not be compatible with Windows 10.  You will still be able to upgrade if you wish but you might want to double check which hardware is being flagged.  Check the story at The Register for the current list of applications which will not survive the upgrade process, including Windows Media Centre as Scott reported on.

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"We already knew the OS will start shipping to members of the Windows Insider program on July 29. On Thursday, however, Microsoft OS boss Terry Myerson explained in a blog post that not everyone should expect to receive their updates on that date."

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Source: The Register

Windows Hololens is headed to space

Subject: General Tech | June 26, 2015 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, hololens

The new Windows Hololens will be headed to the ISS to let the NASA ground crew see through the eyes of astronauts onboard and even to annotate the view in real time.  Instead of using cameras and audio instructions, an astronaut could look at a peice of equipment and the engineer on the ground could overlay a visual of what repairs or changes would need to be completed, or text annotations giving details of the equipment.  One can only hope that the public might one day get a chance to see the ISS through the eyes of someone onboard.  The Inquirer also mentions several other projects the Hololens will be used in, from virtual tours of Mars to use in an underwater training facility to make the illusion of being in orbit even more convincing and valuable as training for future astronauts.  These devices will be wonderful for gaming but there are many other applications that they will be used for.

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"Early demonstrations of Hololens included scenarios involving NASA researchers walking virtually on the surface of Mars through a sister project called OnSight, but now the idea has been extended to real-life interaction with ISS astronauts."

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Source: The Inquirer

Who gets Windows 10 love and who doesn't

Subject: General Tech | June 23, 2015 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, fud

The Inquirer was nice enough to compile a list of requirements to get a free upgrade to Windows 10, based on the rather confusing information which is being provided by Microsoft.  Windows XP and Vista users as well as any and all Enterprise customers will have to pay; prices are expected to be similar to previous releases.  If you run Win7 then you have until 27 July 2016 to click that little upgrade icon to reserve your copy for installation once the new OS is released.  If you are running Win8 then you must upgrade to Win8.1, from there you are qualified.  If you ran the beta, as in you were a member of the Windows Insiders Programme, it depends on your current Windows license, the fact that you tested will not grant you a free copy of Windows 10.  If you pirated or have lost your key then you are SOL, as are those running Linux as The Inquirer amusingly points out.

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"MICROSOFT has been a little less than helpful in clarifying the terms of the free Windows 10 upgrade offer, and The INQUIRER is here to help."

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Source: The Inquirer

Microsoft Announces Xbox One Elite Controller for Windows 10

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 17, 2015 - 10:24 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, Steam Controller, microsoft, E3 2015, E3 15, E3, controller

And, of course, Xbox One... but I can assume who is the bulk of my audience.

Microsoft announced the Xbox One Elite Controller at E3, which includes support for Windows 10. This is part of their initiative to amend relations with the PC gaming industry. They seem to be going about it by focusing on the high-end gamer first. If not, then I wonder why they chose a $150 controller as a leading product.

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At that price, you could literally purchase three Steam Controllers from Valve instead of a single one of these, but whether you should... depends. In all honesty, I might end up purchasing both and doing a comparison between them over a variety of games. Of course, my primary input device is the mouse and keyboard for most games, but I occasionally add an early model Xbox 360 wired controller to the mix for Saint's Row, Grand Theft Auto, NASCAR 2003, and a few other titles.

The real disappointment is its D-Pad, though. It just cannot reliably send a single direction without sometimes accidentally sending others. This gets worse in games that are styled in the “8-bit” and “16-bit” era. I actually need to play most of those on a keyboard, which is a terrible experience. Valve's implementation looks interesting with the cross-shaped thumbpad, but Microsoft's new version has options: an old-fashioned cross as well as a nine-sectioned cup, called a “faceted D-pad”.

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That leads into the main design of Microsoft's controller: customization. Two switches on the back of the controller allow the range of trigger motion to be limited on the fly. This is designed for games like Grand Theft Auto, where the player wants precise control over throttle and brake, but would prefer to rapidly max-out the trigger as fast as possible when shooting a weapon. With this controller, you flip the switch when you leave the car and, what normally would be some fraction of its range, would be considered “bottoming out” and it would apparently even physically stop the trigger from pushing in further. According to the website, the threshold is user-customizable. I did not use it personally because I wasn't at E3.

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Like Valve's controller, it has optional rear paddles near the grips. They are stainless steel apparently, and can be used to compensate for weird button combinations by mapping them to fingers that normally just clutch the device itself. In Valve's version, there is just two while Microsoft's allows for up to four. Microsoft also allows you to detach them, rather than just disable them.

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This is when we get to software customization. Valve claims that the Steam Controller can be bound to many events across mouse, keyboard, and gamepad buttons and axises. Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to be keeping within the range of buttons found on a standard Xbox One controller. This is concerning to me because it means that extended inputs will be redundant, which is fine for an Xbox One game but could be annoying for a PC title that has many independent, simpler commands. This might be a limitation of XINPUT, which supposedly cannot address more than 10 buttons. I thought I remembered that limit being extended, but that seems to be true even in the MSDN documentation. Even still, the driver could address the extra functions as a secondary virtual device (keyboards, etc.) but Microsoft doesn't seem to want to. As a final note, Valve also allows the end of both triggers to be considered a clicky button, while Microsoft just recognizes it as a bottomed-out axis.

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The Xbox One Elite Controller will ship in October for $149.99. A wireless adapter for the PC will not be required if you use the included USB Micro cable, but add that to the price if you want it wireless. Add batteries on top of that, because it takes AA. They include a pair of disposable AA, but that is obviously not a permanent solution.

Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Build 10130 ISOs

Subject: General Tech | June 11, 2015 - 12:53 AM |
Tagged: windows update, windows 10, microsoft, ISO

Microsoft pushed out the Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 10130 to Fast Ring users late last month, and now the company is releasing downloadable ISOs for the build. Microsoft is not yet ready to make this build available to Slow Ring users, but the company is making a special exception in releasing ISO files of the build (Microsoft usually only makes ISOs available after the build has been pushed to the Slow Ring). Specifically, the ISOs are being posted online in response to certain Fast Ring users getting a 0x80246017 error and not being able to upgrade using Windows Update.

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Build 10130 will eventually come to the Slow Ring, but the company is still working on fixing several bugs including taskbar flyouts not working properly. For now we will have to wait.

However, if you are on the Fast Ring and are unable to use Windows Update, you can download the appropriate ISO for your language and system (32-bit or 64-bit), mount it, and apply the update by running the installer.

Download the Windows 10 Build 10130 ISO from the Windows Insider website.

Source: Microsoft

Now that's a Surface you can get excited about

Subject: General Tech | June 10, 2015 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: surface hub, microsoft

The Microsoft Surface that we were promised ages ago is finally being released in the form of the Surface Hub.  Two models will be available for pre-order at the start of July, a $7000 55" model and a $20,000 84" version with a delivery date in September.  The screens can recognize up to 100 touchpoints and are also designed with a stylus in mind so you can use it as a whiteboard or to add comments to your media in real time.  The device sports infrared, imaging and depth sensors which can be used to add to your meetings.  The smaller model is powered by Intel's HD4600 while the larger model contains an NVIDIA Quadro K2200.  Check it out at The Inquirer.

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"MICROSOFT HAS ANNOUNCED that an 84in Surface device will go on sale next month at the bargain price of $20,000. Microsoft announced the Surface Hub 55in and 84in touchscreen all-in-one devices in January, and said today that they will be available to order from 1 July."

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Source: The Inquirer

Skype for Web Beta in the US and UK

Subject: General Tech | June 8, 2015 - 01:48 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, skype

If you are on the go and need to make a Skype call from a machine you cannot install software on and your mobile device is out of juice or just not big enough, there is a new beta you can try out in the US and UK.  Head over to Skype.com or web.skype.com and log into your account, install a plug-in for the supported browsers which are IE, Chrome, Safari and Firefox and make your call.  The beta will be coming to everyone soon, a good idea since most usage scenarios would likely involve travellers calling home and you can check out the link to the blog post at The Register.

In addition The Inquirer let us know that the Skype for Windows desktop client will be updated to include the real time translation tool for all users.  The release may possibly coincide with the upcoming release of Windows 10, whether that OS will be ready or not is a different question.

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"Microsoft has released a beta web browser version of Skype in the US and UK, which will apparently be rolled out worldwide within the next few weeks."

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Source: The Register

Windows 10 Build 10130 Coming to Slow Ring

Subject: General Tech | June 4, 2015 - 07:40 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows, windows 10

Gabe Aul said on Twitter that Microsoft will release Windows 10 Build 10130 to members of the Insider Preview Slow Ring. He did not give a date, but noted that just one blocking fix is preventing the release. This build was released to Fast Ring users last week and had three known issues. Since then, two were patched via Windows Update, leaving just “Flyouts from Taskbar fail to fly out.” Presumably, this is the issue that they are hoping to fix before pushing the build to Slow.

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When the update is released to Slow Ring, it is accompanied by ISOs that can be used to clean-install a PC up to that point. While this delay is to force a segment of users to test the in-place upgrade functionality, I expect this also keeps enterprise evaluators on builds that are more polished. Installing Windows from an ISO might not convey the quality-difference of any two neighboring builds like selecting branches in Windows Update would subconsciously portray.

Microsoft seems to be at the merge and polish stage of Windows 10 development. Builds should start feeling more clean than new as the days roll forward toward July 29th. Major new features are probably going to be done in branches for later releases, similar to what we would consider “service packs”. That's just my assumptions, though.

All you wanted to know about WinX but were afraid to ask

Subject: General Tech | June 2, 2015 - 03:35 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, acer, Lenovo

If you are running Win7 or a flavour of Win8 you have probably seen the pop-up nagging you to reserve your copy of Windows 10 before the official launch on July 29th.  That deadline is a little misleading, if it has you concerned, you still have until July 29 2016 to use your free upgrade.  What the reminder does do is give Microsoft a chance at a large initial adoption rate of the brand new OS which is rather necessary to restore confidence in them as an investment opportunity after the lukewarm Windows 8 adoption numbers.  One question does still remain about the licensing which we are still awaiting an answer to. What does the future after that  date hold for those who like to reinstall OSes on a regular basis; if you only possess a Windows 7 serial number and take advantage of the free upgrade before the deadline, will you get a way to install a fresh copy of Windows 10?

If you do have to buy a new license for Windows 10, the prices will remain as they were for Windows 8, Windows 10 Home will retail for $119, Windows 10 Pro for $199 with an upgrade from Home to Pro costing you $99.  If you want control over when your updates are installed you might want to get some friends together to invest in a volume licensing agreement as patches are now pushed out and installed immediately. As we have mentioned Windows Media Centre will disappear as will any Windows 7 desktop gadgets you might have installed along the way but one mildly surprising omission that The Inquirer spotted was a change to DVD playback, which will also be an extra feature or else be handled by superior open source players.  If for some reason you still use floppy drives, the new Windows will not natively support them but as with the previous version you should be able to locate drivers.

As for hardware, DigiTimes has heard word of very low priced Broadwell based laptops being released by Lenovo and Acer.  Acer will be releasing a pair of models, an 11.6" at $169 and a 14" for $199.  Lenovo's will be more expensive at $250 but will be a convertible Yoga machine which explains at least part of the premium pricing.  It will be interesting to see how these will compete with existing products on the market, including Microsoft's own Surface.

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"The Windows 10 notebooks are an 11.6-inch notebook (US$169) and a 14-inch clamshell-type notebook (US$199) from Acer and a 14-inch convertible Yoga notebook (US$249) from Lenovo. These devices will be manufactured by Inventec, and target mainly against Chromebooks."

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Source: DigiTimes

Lenovo Tech World: REACHit Announced with Cortana

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | May 27, 2015 - 10:00 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, reachit, microsoft, Lenovo, cortana

Yesterday during briefings at Lenovo’s North Campus just outside of Beijing, the Contextual Computing group took the opportunity to discuss their unique integration of a technology called REACHit with Cortana on Windows 10.

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REACHit is an indexing program that Lenovo has developed which is aimed at helping users find their documents among many different services and contexts. Once you authenticate REACHit with your accounts such as Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive, or your local computers, Lenovo makes an index of the files which you keep there to help you more easily locate what you are looking for.

The most unique feature of REACHit comes in how you issue a search query. Lenovo has developed multiple contexts which they think will be useful in locating files, such as File Type, File Actions, Location, Calendar Events, and time frames. They are indexing the files you give them access to for these specific prompts, and hoping to present them in a more useful fashion.

One of the examples we were walked through involved the prompt, “Where is the presentation I was working on at Starbucks last week?”. In this case, Lenovo is looking at the file types (PPT), whether or not a file was Saved/Opened, the geolocation which this occurred at, and the time frame at which these operations took place.

We didn’t see a live demo of these searches working, and haven’t had hands-on time with the software yet so it’s hard to say if Lenovo has succeeded at their goal, but the technology seems like an interesting solution to a common problem.

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There are also security concerns about giving Lenovo access to all of your files, and letting them build an index your metadata. We have been told there is encryption being handled on Lenovo’s server side, but they couldn’t get into any further details about this.

REACHit at this point is purely integrated with Microsoft’s Cortana in Windows 10, and there is no other option for running a search or external API access. Lenovo expects REACHit to be available at the Windows 10 launch for Lenovo machines only, and is currently opening sign-ups for the private beta at Cortanareachit.com

Source: Lenovo